The role of women across the world has often been overlooked. Women are key to unlocking the worlds potentials in different sectors and this can only be achieved through empowerment of the girl child from when they are still young.
Education is the only key to unlocking the potential of girls and as the saying goes, ‘Teach a girl to read and she will succeed for a lifetime’. Investing in girl’s education empowers them to build better lives for themselves, their families and the world.
On October 11th, 2018, the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child which was themed With Her: A Skilled Girl Force. Today’s generation of girls is preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but roughly a quarter of young people, most of them female are currently neither employed or in education or training.
Reports reveal that young women are more likely to be unemployed in large parts of the world due to their seclusion when it comes to education, training and acquiring globally competitive skills.
They are often left to domestic home-keeping and raising families through marriage- especially in developing countries.
“This year alone, 12 million girls under 18 will be married, and 21 million girls aged 15 to 19 years will become pregnant in developing regions,” says UN report.
Of the 1 billion young people, including 600 million adolescent girls that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90 percent of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse, and exploitation are common.
Girls across the world have proven to have the potential to inspire, innovate and take charge of their lives. Despite the many challenges that they face, they strive to push forward and many of them succeed. A girl is a strong person. She is brave and courageous.
According to UN Women, by the age of 6 years old, girls already consider boys more likely to show brilliance and more suited to “Really, really smart” activities than their own gender. In most parts of the world, and especially in developing countries, young women are more likely to be unemployed compared to boys.
UNESCO reports that a total of 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 19 years old are estimated to be out of school with more than half of them being in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report further discloses that 1 in every 5 girls in the developing world does not finish 5th grade. Only 43 percent of secondary school-aged girls are in school and the main reason that makes these girls fail t access education is said to be as a result of high levels of poverty and early marriages.
In Kenya, some of the challenges facing girls include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages and teenage pregnancy.
Kenyan girls jump many hurdles to complete school. Many factors affect their transition from one class to the next. Thankfully, governments and non-governmental organizations have been working towards gender parity in education, which has significantly reduced the school enrolment gap.
According to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (Unicef), an estimated 23 percent of girls in Kenya are married off prior to their 18th birthday and 4 percent before they turn 15. This means that they drop out of school while boys continue learning.
Child marriage rates vary across regions. Northeastern and Coast regions have the highest prevalence rates while central Kenya and Nairobi city have the lowest. Early marriage results in teenage pregnancy; the leading causes of maternal deaths and injuries for girls aged 15 to 19 are pregnancy and childbirth. It also contributes to high rates of obstetric fistula, premature births, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), HIV and domestic violence. The high prevalence of HIV means that young married girls are particularly at risk.
As we forge forward, the girl child should be remembered. There is a need for enforcement of the relevant prohibitive laws as well as creating more awareness towards behavior change in order to protect girls. With such implemented, girls will rise even more and be at the forefront on matters that will help shape the society and the world as a whole.